Robot Speaks: Warning Warning

As deliberately dazed and confused as Run Lola Run was mechanical crash-and-burn, Tom Tykwer's The Princess and the Warrior may represent an attempt to reconnect to palpable human concerns, but it's tough to say. Tykwer is by trade a tinkerer, and after Lola's commercial trajectory, he shows signs of desiring respect from those who thought that Rube Goldberg-ian eggbeater had no substance or soul. While the new film is powered by post-Coen serendipity and freaky conjunctions, and there's a good amount of adrenergic sprinting, Tykwer aims for absurdist romance and falls on his face. Connections are made between things and happenings, but not between the shambling narrative and the viewer.

In vitro, the plot parallels Angel Eyes: a quirky anti-liaison between two damaged souls who meet amidst vehicular ruin. But these crazy kids are uncommunicative zombies: Sissi (Franka Potente) is a slow, slackjawed mental-ward nurse and Bodo (Benno Fürmann) is an ice-eyed loose cannon whose unblinking wiredness has something to do with a tragic past he won't talk about. They meet in the film's most electrifying scene: After a truck runs down Sissi in the middle of the street, Bodo scurries underneath to perform a half-assed tracheotomy, sucking her blood through a straw to clear a breathway.

After her recovery, Sissi feels compelled to track her savior down, just as Bodo and his army buddies are prepping for, guess what, a bank heist. She is rebuffed ad nauseam, then she gets accidentally involved, Bodo has nightmares about his dead wife, and eventually several strands of fate face off on the asylum roof, before the movie climaxes with a truly laborious dose of doppelgänger anagogy. Throughout, Tykwer reaches for mysteries he has no idea how to evoke, relying instead on his actors' empty stares. Largely stationary, Potente is a bore, while Fürmann's wild-man gaze does give the movie a tiny edge; there seems to be more to him, and therefore to Bodo, than Tykwer can exploit. For all the quasi-magical intimations, the movie's title comes off only as unintentionally ironic: After more than two hours, Two Boneheads sounds better.

Running to stand still: Potente in The Princess and the Warrior
photo: Sony Pictures Classics
Running to stand still: Potente in The Princess and the Warrior

Details

The Princess and The Warrior
Written and directed by Tom Tykwer
Sony Pictures Classics
Opens June 22

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Directed by Simon West
Written by Patrick Massett & John Zinman
Paramount

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While we're retitling, how about Lara Croft: Bra Model? So pandering and pebble-brained you'd guess it had been test-screened on barnyard animals, Tomb Raider is less about approaching an Indy Jones interactive experience than about the size, shape, swing, and bounce of Angelina Jolie's T-shirted jubblies. As such, it's a PG-13 toxic spill of half-measures: breasts dangled but not actually exposed, action suggested but not executed, story exposited but not told. It's an MTV Awards montage writ long and nap-inducing. Jolie, for her part, appears to regard this payday with disdain—that is, when she's on-screen and her army of stunt replacements aren't. Director Simon "Con Air" West knows how to shoot-for-editing like I know how to parajump, but the real question is, how many Tomb Raider screenwriters does it take to screw in a lightbulb? (Six to hold the ladder.) Croft is a wealthy archaeologist who keeps in trim by shooting and leaping around a giant, homicidal chromium robot in a faux-Egyptian-ruins room in her own mansion . . . That's just the first five moronic minutes, and it doesn't get any more sensible.

 
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